The EU’s new five-year plan for justice and home affairs will export the UK’s database state to the rest of the EU
Every five years the EU adopts a
five-year plan for justice and home affairs affecting many areas of EU
citizens‘ civil liberties – policing, immigration and asylum, criminal
law, databases and data protection. The Tampere programme (2000-2004) was followed by the Hague programme[pdf]
(2005-2009), which included the commitment to bring in biometric
passports and ID cards, and a new programme will be adopted in
Stockholm in December.
The process of deciding the content of
these five-year plans is long and complicated and rarely makes it into
the mainstream news until they have been adopted – when, of course, it
is too late for the public to influence its content or direction. The
Tampere programme was drawn up and negotiated by officials of the
council of the European Union and the European commission, without any
consultation with national or European parliaments, let alone civil
society, and adopted in closed sessions[pdf] by the European council (EU prime ministers). This time we know a little more. In January 2008 the council set up a future group[pdf], who produced a report on home affairs last summer.
Its proposals are examined in a special Statewatch report: The shape of things to come[pdf].
These include the new "principle of convergence", described as "the
pooling of sovereignty" by enforcing standard training, equipment and
information technology across all the law enforcement agencies (police,
immigration and customs) and backed by legal harmonisation to remove
"obstacles" (such as the need for judicial authorisation and data
protection) to gathering, accessing and transferring data and
intelligence. This will allow unregulated automated access to data and
intelligence by hundreds of national state agencies across Europe,
bringing into practical effect the "principle of availability" (all
data and intelligence held has to made available to all the other state
agencies in the EU) in the Hague programme.
Second, to harness the digital tsunami[pdf]:
"Every object the individual uses, every transaction they make and
almost everywhere they go will create a detailed digital record. This
will generate a wealth of information for public security
organisations", leading to behaviour being predicted and assessed by
"machines" (their term) which will issue orders to officers on the
spot. The proposal presages the mass gathering of personal data on
travel, bank details, mobile phone locations, health records, internet
usage, criminal records however minor, fingerprints and digital
pictures that can be data-mined and applied to different scenario –
boarding a plane, behaviour on the Tube or taking part in a protest.
it is proposed that by 2014 the EU needs to create a "Euro-Atlantic
area of cooperation with the USA in the field of freedom, security and
justice". This would go far beyond current co-operation and mean that
policies affecting the liberties and rights of everyone in Europe would
not be determined in London or Brussels but in secret EU-US meetings.
formal process will start when the commission adopts proposals in June.
The European parliament will be consulted when it re-assembles in
September. The commission’s draft can be re-written at will by the
European council and adopted in closed session. This will set in stone
the measures to be put forward by the commission and determine the
agenda for the new European parliament.
Statewatch has set up an observatory tracking all the documents as they appear so that you can find out what is going on and the European civil liberties network[pdf] is seeking to alert civil society to the dangers.
can either leave these decisions to our leaders (and an elite group of
civil servants) or we can insist on an open and meaningful debate now
before it is too late. The idea that the surveillance society and
database state is just a UK issue is naive: it is a European one in
which our government plays a very active role.